Power BI with Dynamics 365 Business Central

Microsoft Power BI, part of the Power Platform, can integrate seamlessly with Dynamics 365 Business Central. This article will dive into the key components of Power BI and how it connects with Dynamics 365 Business Central to display reports and visualizations.

The topics covered in this article are:

Data Stats and Data Culture

The ability for a company to be able to translate their data into meaningful context for the organization, as well as for its customers, is a key aspect of that organization staying competitive.

70% of organizations believe that their data is not being used to the fullest. More companies are realizing that there’s a lot of data at hand, but we don’t really know what we need to do with that data to make it meaningful for our users.

Data culture is an emerging topic and continuously growing as organizations develop strategies around creating a data culture environment. Allowing every team member to be empowered to do great things with the data at their fingertips is what organizations are trying to accomplish. There is so much data, but a culture needs to be built where everyone can benefit.

Instead of spending most of the time cleaning and bringing that data together, spending time visualizing and analyzing the data that’s there to help make decisions. With technology, organizations are trying to use their data, and that’s where Power Platform fits in.

Power Platform

Microsoft Power Platform entails five applications: Power BI, Power Apps, Power Automate, Power Virtual Agents, and Power Pages. The applications in the Power Platform family can be easily and seamlessly connected with existing solutions such as Office 365, Azure, or Dynamics solutions such as Dynamics 365 Business Central. Data Connectors are an important link between connecting your existing solutions with the Power Platform. The Microsoft Dataverse (formerly known as Common Data Service) shares the data across the applications seamlessly, so you don’t have to go into one application and have a certain set of data in another application. For a more detailed overview of the Power Platform, please see What is the Power Platform?

Power BI

Power BI allows you to easily connect to, model, and visualize your data, creating personalized and secure reports for your organization. Learn how you can get maximum value from your technology and your data by using Power BI with your existing Microsoft technology.

5 Key Components of Power BI

There are five key components of Power BI:

  1. Real-time dashboard capabilities are a big win for Power BI. Unlike other applications, Power BI can create live dashboards, where you can see real-time data interact with various reports or visualizations.
  2. Create visualizations that suit your data and makes sense to you by showing the components that are important or that help tell your story.
  3. Integrate with other Microsoft family applications is a valuable component. The ability of Power BI to be embedded within Microsoft Teams, for example, or integrating it with your CRM or ERP application. The ability for Power BI to integrate without any custom integration or effort required is unique to Microsoft and Power BI specifically.
  4. Natural Language query enables users to ask questions of their data simply and intuitively.
  5. Access data and insights wherever you are on any device, whether on a desktop or online in a web browser or on a mobile device.

How Does Power BI Transform Your Data to Insights?

Power BI starts by getting your data, then begins to analyze and visualize the data, allowing you to share and collaborate with others.

Power BI needs to get your data and access it. There are different connectors and data sources that you can hook up to get your data. There are so many Power BI data sources, but essentially that data can be transformed and cleaned to be able to work for the reports or the dashboard visualizations that you’re creating. You can connect to the data sources through your system and the Azure Data Lake, to help support you in terms of the integration of data to your system.

The screenshot below highlights some of the Power BI data sources, but there are literally hundreds of built-in data sources that you can leverage to help you migrate your data.

List of Power BI Data Sources

Once the data is uploaded and then sourced into Power BI, you’ll want to be able to analyze that data. Power BI creates a model automatically and can make those linkages, interactions, and relationships with the data that is there. This is done without any manual effort being involved.

You can then visualize the data, beyond bar graphs and pie charts, and interact with the data itself in the visualizations. Power BI helps your data be presented in a meaningful way and be easily representative.

Next is the ability to publish the data or dashboard to share the insights that you’ve captured with other people, whether it be internally and/or externally to your organization. There are multiple means of integrating and embedding those reports throughout your Microsoft solutions. There is a lot of power in terms of where that data can be accessed and by whom, and of course, you can set restrictions and security rules.

Lastly, is the ability to collaborate with others using the Power BI dashboards. This is where that aspect of how we engage and interact with multiple systems, multiple users, and connecting with our data to make use of it.

Power BI with Dynamics 365 Business Central

There is a natural integration between Power BI and Dynamics 365 Business Central. The following sections will explain where to access the Power BI reports using your Dynamics 365 Business Central data, how a Business Central user accesses Power BI, and will show a few examples of Power BI reports both in Business Central and Power BI.

Power BI Insights with Dynamics 365 Business Central Data

Power BI reports and insights can be delivered through many different means such as Excel, Visio, SharePoint, Teams, Power Apps, Dynamics 365, and SaaS apps.

Specifically with Dynamics 365 Business Central, you can embed some Power BI reports in Business Central. Viewing Power BI reports in Business Central means that you don’t have to leave the system to view them. Alternatively, users can also view and build dashboards and reports in Power BI using Business Central data.

Power BI and Business Central can work together to generate custom reports that can be made available to you, that the system may not generate out of the box for Business Central. Within Business Central you can create predefined Power BI reports, trends, diagrams, or any visualizations that can help your organization discuss the data to another level. Power BI provides a flexible alternative, enabling you to drill down and customize the visualization.

The connection between Power BI and Business Central is one that can be very natural where you don’t even know when Business Central is utilizing Power BI, because the user interface is very clean and appropriate for the Microsoft solution.

How Does a Business Central User Access Power BI?

To use Power BI with Dynamics 365 Business Central, you’ll need a Power BI Pro license or if your organization currently has a Microsoft E5 license then Power BI Pro is already included.

Once the licenses are set up, you can go into Business Central and try selecting a report on the main screen. This will initiate the connection the first time and it may produce an error. If it produces an error, then you need to go to the ‘my applications area’ and launch Power BI pro after you’ve engaged Business Central, which will activate the Power BI dashboard area in Business Central. After doing that you may have to close Business Central and then reopen it.

The screenshot below is an example of a Power BI report appearing in the Business Central homepage.

Dynamics 365 Business Central homepage with trial balance summary and Power BI report graph

Examples of Power BI Reports with Dynamics 365 Business Central Data

Depending on which Power BI reports have been published, you will have access to various reports. You have the ability to add additional reports as you design them, or if you find any Power BI templates on Microsoft GitHub, for example, or within the Microsoft Power BI community.

Below is an example of a report in the Power BI application using Business Central data.

Power BI application showing various financial graphs

As you create a series of dashboards and reports, as a report designer, you can then create it as an application and then share it with other users, which will be available to them in their Power BI launchpad. Below is a screenshot of the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central app in the Power BI workspace and as you share reports with other users, they would be able to launch Business Central from there or from their mobile devices.

Power BI homepage with curser on Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central app

Information is retrieved directly from Business Central, and you can drill down into the different data sets appearing in the Power BI dashboards. Users will be brought right into the system where they can engage with the data. This is a very powerful tool that unifies your business intelligence experience with your ERP system.

Below is another Power BI dashboard example using Business Central data. Focusing in on the Mini Trial Balance, for example, it will show some changes within certain categories that are important to you. You can click and activate data slicers by selecting an area and then deselecting it to remove the filter.

Power BI financial dashboard showing four graphs

To see more visuals of how Power BI uses Dynamics 365 Business Central data, please see our Power Platform + Dynamics 365 Business Central blog article.

Encore has developed an entry level Power BI app that can be implemented for out of the box Dynamics 365 Business Central data. To learn more, please see our Power BI Apps for Dynamics 365 Business Central blog article.

Q&A Panel in Power BI

The Q&A panel in Power BI allows you to ask questions about your data in your own words through natural language query. For example, in the screenshot below ‘sales by country’ was typed in and the dashboard provided that information. Another example could be ‘list locations on map’ and it will surface your locations in a map visualization. The Q&A panel will give you the data in the method it thinks is the most meaningful.

Power BI graphs, with focus on text input

Users can click on any item that displays in the visualizations and then it filters out the data based on that selection.

Decomposition Tree

A decomposition tree visual in Power BI allows you to look at your data across dimensions. You can add and remove dimensions, and it will automatically drill down into the data and automatically refreshes it for you.

Power BI decomposition tree graph

In the example below, Subsidiary, Financial Planning, and Period are selected as the dimensions. To add another data value, click on the ‘+’ icon next to the values you want to see. In this example, the light bulb icon next to the ‘High value’ and ‘Low value’ means that it’s using Microsoft’s machine learning capabilities that are built in. In the example, ‘Low value’ was selected which shows the low values of the subsidiary selected. To do this, a formula didn’t have to be written to identify the low value, it was all derived from machine learning.

Power BI decomposition tree, focus on high and low value options

It’s all about adding additional information to help you understand what’s happening within your organization. It depends what data you want to showcase, who you want to share it with, how you want to access the dashboard, and what you want your data visualizations to look like.

Power BI Terminology and Data Sources

There are numerous data sources that you can connect with Power BI. You could have on-premises data sources, data sources in the cloud such as Business Central, and there could be other items you want to integrate such as a point-of-sale system. The screenshot below provides an overview in terms of some of the terminology used for Power BI, but also how you would connect multiple data sources.

BI terminology and graph showing how data sources connect

An ETL process needs to happen, which stands for Extract, Transform, and Load, and you want to do this in a very meaningful way which is where data architects become necessary. Data architects help ensure that you’re extracting the correct data, as opposed to just grabbing everything as one big lump, and then bringing it up to the cloud. It’s important that the relationships that you’re making with your data are meaningful, so that they’ll be optimized and able to process those reports in a good way.

External data sources from on-premises might go to a storage area in the cloud. Then you might have a data warehouse called Azure Synapse, in this example. Then use Azure Data Factory to integrate this data and do the ETL operation. In simple terms, the Azure Active Directory does the security verification to make sure you can access the data to which you are requesting from Power BI. If so, then it goes ahead and it displays that information to you in the Power BI dashboard.

Power BI with Dynamics 365 Business Central Presentation

See Power BI interact with Dynamics 365 Business Central in this recorded webinar.

Key moments in this session include:

  • Data Culture – 2:25
  • What is the Microsoft Power Platform? – 4:05
  • Key Components of Power BI – 6:50
  • Power BI + Dynamics 365 Business Central – 14:00
  • Demo of Power BI with Dynamics 365 Business Central showing dashboards and reports – 16:30

Contact us if you have any questions about Power BI and integrating it with Dynamics 365 Business Central.

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